Resources updated between Monday, January 23, 2017 and Sunday, January 29, 2017
January 29, 2017
January 28, 2017
Five Coptic Christians have been brutally murdered and had their throats slashed in four different incidents in Egypt over a two-week timespan, a persecution watchdog group reports.
As it has been reported that four Coptic Christians have been murdered during the first two weeks of 2017, the body of a fifth slain Copt was found last Monday.
According to World Watch Monitor, the body of 37-year-old married father of two, Ishak Ibrahim Fayez Younan, was discovered in his Cairo residence by his brother on Jan. 16.
Reports indicate that Ishak, who worked at a soda factory in Cairo for the last 13 years, had his throat slashed while he was in an apartment he rented. His wife and other family members live in their permanent residence in a village in Upper Egypt.
While police believe robbery might have been the motive, no valuables were taken by the assailants who killed Ishak.
Magdy Younan, the victim's brother, told World Watch Monitor that Ishak had recently returned to Cairo for work after going back home to celebrate the Coptic Christmas holiday with his family and to attend a wedding.
"It was his first visit to the family in two months," Younan explained.
Ishak returned to Cairo on Jan. 12 and his wife called him on Jan. 13 to make sure that he had returned safely to Cairo. That was the last time Ishak ever spoke with his wife, Younan said.
Even though Ishak's wife had tried to call him each of the following three days, there was no answer.
"She was very worried about him because it was the first time they hadn't spoken for that long," Younan explained.
Ishak had only been back in Cairo for about four days before his slain body was discovered by his brother and brother-in-law who were asked to go check on him.
"I headed to Ishak's flat with our brother-in-law," Younan said. "When we got there, the door was locked. We knocked loudly but no one answered."
The men then went to the factory where Ishak worked and were told by his co-workers that he had not returned to work since he took off on his Christmas holiday. Younan and the brother-in-law became increasingly worried.
"We went back to his flat and managed to open the door," Younan said. "We found Ishak's body lying in a pool of blood. He had a large wound at his throat."
"There was no sign of a struggle - everything was in its place. ... His wallet was still in his pocket with 400 Egyptian pounds [$21] in it," he added. "The murderer didn't steal his money or anything from the flat, which indicates that the motive was not theft."
Ishak's family is distraught and perplexed by his murder. Younan said he couldn't think of anyone who would want to harm his brother.
"My brother had no enemies; he was a very simple man, and peaceful," Younan said. "He left his wife and children to work in Cairo to support them. His family will now face difficulties as he was the primary bread-winner."
Ishak's murder comes after 35-year-old Coptic surgeon Bassam Safwat Atta, a married father of two, was also found dead with his throat slit in his residence in Upper Egypt on Jan. 13.
Much like in the case of Ishak, there was no sign that whoever murdered Atta had taken any valuables from the residence.
"There wasn't any sign of violent struggle in the apartment," neighbor Mokhles Nage, a fellow Christian, told World Watch Monitor. "Everything was in its place and nothing was missing, including money and Bassam's wife's jewellery."
Prior to Atta's death, 60-year-old Coptic Christian Gamal Sami and his 48-year-old wife, Nadia, were discovered dead in their beds in northern Egypt on Jan. 6, on the Coptic Christmas holiday. Both Gamal and Nadia had their throats slit.
A 70-year-old Christian man's refusal to sell his home in Pakistan prompted Muslim arsonists to burn down the property while everyone inside, including his daughter and four-year-old grandson, were sleeping.
The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), a group that combats Christian persecution, has reported the details of the crime, in which no one was fatally injured.
Four Muslim men forced their way into the Christian home and gang-raped the 25-year-old homeowner's daughter "with threats to leave their family property which was adjacent to home of culprits," notes Pakistan Christian Post.
Rehmat Masih, the owner of the Christian home and father of the rape victim, Sajida, "knocked every door for justice to lodge report [sic] against Muslim rapists but due to their influence and contact in government none was ready to register case against them," it continues.
Local police have allegedly been reluctant to take the rape seriously, refusing to charge the rapist, according to BPCA.
"We have done nothing wrong, we have simply continued to practice our faith and that has made us pariahs in the local community. Local Muslims hate Christians they believe we are vermin - rats that should be eradicated," Rehmat told BPCA.
"My daughter has suffered so much, when I think what these men have done to her my heart fills with sorrow and anger," he added. "But I know I need not seek vengeance our God will judge these men one day for all they have done. Our God will protect us he will make our lives whole again."
Rehmat believes some of the Muslim men who have been sending death threats for refusing to sell his property played a role in the arson attack, adding that "they had formed a local land mafia gang and were frightening other Christians too."
"This family have suffered greatly because it is so easy to target Christians. The country of Pakistan has become inhospitable for Christians we have no hope left but our God," declared Naveed Aziz of BPCA. "I visit victim after victim and was a victim myself when men were arrested during the Lahore twin church attack – we all have similar accounts of violence against us."
Rehmat's family continues to refuse to leave their home, which has been handed down within the family for generations.
January 27, 2017
January 26, 2017
"More than a thousand pro-Israel supporters from across the country bombarded the offices of Senate Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) with phone calls, urging the Democratic leader to stop holding up a key congressional initiative to rebuke the United Nations following its recent action against Israel, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Durbin's offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago were so overwhelmed by phone calls that staffers were forced to take the phones off the hook for a short time, sources told the Washington Free Beacon.
The phone assault, led by the Republican Jewish Coalition, or RJC, is part of an effort to convince Durbin to release his hold on a Senate measure aiming to condemn the U.N. for its Obama administration-orchestrated efforts to chastise the Jewish state, a move that drew bipartisan outrage among lawmakers.
While the House of Representative already voted to overwhelmingly approve a similar measure, the Senate has balked, mainly due to opposition by Durbin and other Democratic leaders. The Senate resolution has the backing of 78 lawmakers, including Democrats..."
A Palestinian man opened fire on vehicles traveling on Route 55 in the northern West Bank on Thursday afternoon, the IDF said. No one was hurt in the attack.
A bullet casing was found at the site, which lies near the village of Azzun east of the Palestinian city of Qalqilya.
IDF forces "are searching the area for the suspect," the army said in a statement.
The incident continues a sharp spike in violence in the West Bank in recent days.
An IDF soldier was lightly wounded in clashes between troops and residents in the West Bank city of Jenin early Thursday morning, the army said.
During the fighting, Palestinians fired gunshots and threw Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs at the troops, who opened fire at their attackers, the army said. It was not immediately clear which side caused the soldier's wounds.
The soldier received treatment on the scene and was then taken to a nearby hospital for further treatment. The army entered the Palestinian city's refugee camp to conduct an arrest raid when they came under attack by local residents.
During the operation, the IDF picked up two suspected Hamas members - brothers Muhammad and Ahmed As'ad Abu Khalifa, according to Palestinian media.
Overnight Wednesday and into Thursday morning, the army conducted a number of operations throughout the West Bank, including a crackdown on the manufacturing of illegal weapons in the city of Hebron, the army said. In the village of Aboud, northwest of Ramallah, the IDF also collected evidence from the home of a Palestinian man - identified by Palestinian media as Raed Omar Nizar Barghouti - who opened fire on an army post earlier in the evening, the army said.
Small-scale fighting was reported during an arrest raid in the Deheishe refugee camp outside Bethlehem.
The clashes broke out after IDF troops moved into the city to pick up two residents, Palestinian media reported.
In Hebron, the army shuttered a workshop that is believed to have been used to craft makeshift guns, the army said.
Eight pieces of machinery, including drill presses and lathes, were confiscated during the operation. "This operation represents just one of many operations being conducted in the Judea region each night to seize workshops and weapons," the army said in a statement.
Elsewhere in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers picked up five more Palestinian suspects, four of them for rock-throwing.
The fifth, who was arrested in al-Hashimia, north of Jenin, was suspected of being a member of the Hamas terrorist organization, the army said.
Earlier on Wednesday night, Barghouti shot at an army position outside Aboud from a passing car. IDF troops fired back, wounding him. He received medical treatment on the scene before being taken to a nearby hospital, the army said.
Barghouti's attack came hours after IDF troops shot dead a Palestinian man who rammed his car into a West Bank bus stop north of Jerusalem on Wednesday evening.
The Israeli civilians and soldiers who were standing at the bus stop were uninjured. According to the army, the driver crashed his truck into the metal bollards surrounding a bus stop near the Kochav Yaakov settlement in the central West Bank, southeast of Ramallah.
Upon searching the car, the soldiers found the driver to be holding a knife, the military said.
Car-ramming and knife attacks have been a fixture of a swell of deadly violence in Israel and the West Bank over the past 18 months, and sporadic attacks have persisted even as the wave of violence has somewhat subsided in recent months.
January 25, 2017
"The Trump administration is preparing executive orders that would clear the way to drastically reduce the United States' role in the United Nations and other international organizations, as well as begin a process to review and potentially abrogate certain forms of multilateral treaties.
The first of the two draft orders, titled 'Auditing and Reducing U.S. Funding of International Organizations' and obtained by The New York Times, calls for terminating funding for any United Nations agency or other international body that meets any one of several criteria.
Those criteria include organizations that give full membership to the Palestinian Authority or Palestine Liberation Organization, or support programs that fund abortion or any activity that circumvents sanctions against Iran or North Korea. The draft order also calls for terminating funding for any organization that 'is controlled or substantially influenced by any state that sponsors terrorism' or is blamed for the persecution of marginalized groups or any other systematic violation of human rights.
The order calls for then enacting "at least a 40 percent overall decrease" in remaining United States funding toward international organizations."
"President Trump's meeting with UK Prime Minister Theresa May this coming Friday affords them a perfect opportunity to discuss reaffirming their countries commitments to the Jewish People made by America in 2004 and Great Britain in 1922-which were seriously undermined when neither country vetoed Security Council Resolution 2334 on 23 December 2016.
America's commitments were given in a letter from President George Bush to then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dated 14 April 2004 to:
The UN Should Be Very Afraid Article
January 24, 2017
January 23, 2017
A British-Iranian woman sentenced to five years in jail in Iran on unspecific charges relating to national security has had her conviction upheld in the appeals court, according to judiciary officials.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency's charitable arm, appealed against her sentenceearlier this month in what was her last legal opportunity to challenge it.
"Her sentence has been confirmed," Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, the judiciary spokesperson, told reporters in Tehran on Sunday, the semi-official Isna news agency reported.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, is serving her prison term in the women's ward of Tehran's notorious Evin prison alongside other Iranians behind bars on political or religious grounds. She was originally found guilty in September.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the elite forces that arrested her in April at the airport while she was about to return to the UK after a family visit, have accused her of orchestrating a "soft overthrow" of the Islamic Republic – accusations her husband has vehemently denied.
Her imprisonment, which is part of a string of cases involving dual nationals, has cast a shadow on the thawing in Tehran-London relations in the wake of the landmark nuclear deal. The Iranian judiciary has also arrested a number of other Iranians with dual citizenship from western countries in recent years.
Tobias Ellwood, the Foreign Office minister for the Middle East, visited Tehran earlier in the week, meeting Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family at the British embassy in Tehran. It was not clear if Ellwood had discussed her imprisonment with his Iranian counterparts.
Last year, the British ambassador also met Zaghari-Ratcliffe's two-year-old daughter, Gabriella, who has been placed in the care of her Iranian grandparents. Gabriella was accompanying her mother during the visit to Iran.
After her arrest, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was transferred to the southern Iranian city of Kerman, where she was held for weeks in an unknown location before being taken to Evin prison.
Although the exact reasons for her incarceration are unclear, Iranian authorities have hinted that her arrest is linked to the 2014 imprisonment of several employees of an Iranian technology news website, according to Amnesty International. They were given long prison terms for participating in a BBC journalism training course. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was a project assistant at the BBC's Media Action, the broadcaster's international development charity, in 2008-09. The BBC is loathed by the Iranian establishment, mainly for its Persian service, which is watched by millions of Iranians via illegal satellite dishes.
Richard Ratcliffe has claimed his wife is being used as a pawn in political deals with the UK. Iranian officials have denied this, but Tehran has shown a pattern of behaviour in previous cases involving dual nationals. Last year, it notably released the Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian alongside other Iranian-Americans, swapping them for Iranian nationals held in US jails for crimes including violating economic sanctions.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe's arrest and sentencing has been carried out by institutions that act independently of President Hassan Rouhani's government. Rouhani has been particularly at odds with the judiciary and earlier this month engaged in a public spat with its chief over financial transparency of the justice system.
Ratcliffe wrote to Rouhani this month, complaining about his wife's prolonged imprisonment and saying that despite the trial no crime has been identified in public.
"I am also the father of Gabriella Ratcliffe, two years old, who has had her British passport confiscated by the Revolutionary Guard, and not returned despite family and government requests. Nazanin has occasional visits from Gabriella via a blindfold, at the discretion of her captors, far less than the visits reported to the UN. I am reduced to parenting by Skype," he wrote.
He added: "I have stated publicly I regard both my wife and daughter as being held by Iranian factions for other agendas, as bargaining chips for international and domestic politics, inventing lies to protect their economic interests. This is a politics that it is unfair on my family to be involved in. It is a politics for which my family has paid a heavy enough price.
"I have now not seen my daughter or wife for 10 months. This is a very long time not to be able to see how they are."
Richard Ratcliffe said on Sunday: "The lack of justice in Nazanin's case continues to be a stain on Iran. The continued attempt to frame Nazanin behind secrets and lies brings shame.
"It is a needless waste of a mother and child's life for their own political bargains and economic interests [...] And yet this ordeal continues, with all its consequences for Nazanin and Gabriella, and for all of us watching on. It is no way to toy with people's lives. There is no way we will let it rest. Nazanin will not be forgotten."
More than 850,000 people have signed a petition on change.org, calling on Iran to release her.
An FCO spokesman said: "We are aware of reports that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's appeal has been decided and are urgently seeking clarification."
H.R. 769 Safeguard Israel Act Document